The Ritual Of The French PressSunday, December 23, 2012
|México DF, 17 de diciembre, 2012
My friend was 86 the day before, December 16. I was sitting with him in his den, in Mexico City surrounded by books in many languages including a few dictionaries which include two, Tagalog – Spanish, and Tagalog – English. He was in pain and he gestured for me to remove his slippers and lift his feet on to the sofa. He asked Jorge Alejandro, his man-Friday and nurse to bring us coffee. Jorge Alejandro did but my friend reacted in horror. It seems that Jorge Alejandro had poured the coffee into the cups. My friend repeated, “The ritual, the ritual, you have eliminated the ritual.” Jorge Alejandro had brought the coffee machine with the plunger already plunged!
This ritual had to be performed at the time of serving. The last time I had seen that coffee machine, a French press, the person doing the plunging had been the Hungarian baroness Andrea back in 1967. Andrea had been a friend of my friend. She had escaped Hungary with her life, her husband and her carpets inside a horse cart. It was my friend who taught me that the best carpets are always hung on the wall. You would never walk on them.
The French press that Jorge Alejandro had pressed in the kitchen had been an inherited gift from the baroness when she died. My friend had a particular love for this high-strung woman whom I had both feared and admired. She was haughty and serious but when she smiled (not often) I melted.
I explained to Jorge Alejandro, a patient and kind soul, that his master only has ritual to fend off the indignity of having to wear paper diapers to sleep, to be helped to the bathroom or to be bathed and fed.
Jorge Alejandro understood and smiled at me with his eyes. I told Jorge Alejandro the story of the baroness. My friend corrected me and informed me that in fact Andrea had been not a baroness but a countess. I might have contradicted my friend but that would have broken the wonderful spell of the moment as we sipped our coffee and my friend said, “I regret the moments of my life that I imagined but that I never lived.”